Review Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G @ DX a legend reborn?


Since the beginning of 2012, Nikon has been delivering the AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G: an affordable (€ 529 suggested retail price), bright, short-telephoto lens with a fixed focal distance. The Nikon 85 mm 1.8G replaces the legendary Nikon 85 mm f/1.8D, which dates from 1994, and has a newly designed optical system. The reborn Nikon 85 mm 1.8 is 30 grams lighter than its predecessor and is suitable for cameras with either an FX or a DX sensor. On a camera with a DX factor, the field of view of this lens compares with the field of view of a 135 mm telephoto lens on a camera with a full-frame sensor. That has been my favorite combination for years. A 135 mm lens is good, bright and inexpensive.


Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G ED and Nikon D7100

85mmd7100Nikon AF-S 85 mm f/1.8 @ 1600 ISO, f/1.8 and 1/320 sec

Construction and auto focus


This Nikon 85 mm lens is also suitable for portrait photography on a camera with a DX sensor. In addition, this short, bright telephoto lens is also well suited to landscape photography, concert photography and low-light photography. The very low distortion makes the Nikon 85 mm 1.8G also well suited to architectural photography.

The AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G comes with a sun cap and soft lens bag. With a weight of only 350 grams, this weather-resistant, compact 85 mm lens is lighter than its predecessor. The low weight was realized by using high-quality plastics, without sacrificing the solidity of the lens. On this lens, there is only a switch for AF/MF. Image stabilization is not built in. Manual focusing goes smoothly. The Silent Wave Motor (SWM) ensures silent and accurate auto focus. In low light, we noticed that focusing was sometimes less sharp. That fades at full aperture. If you stop down a bit, it’s absorbed by the focal depth.

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Vignetting Nikon 85 mm f/1.8G

Because this lens is designed for use on a camera with an FX sensor, with use on a camera with a DX sensor there is no sign of visible vignetting. Here you can see a practice shot that we made at f/1.8. Vignetting is not visibly present. In the bokeh in the corners, it’s recognizable that the Nikon 85mm 1.8G lens is not completely free of vignetting: in the corners, vignetting causes characteristic cat’s eye shape in the bokeh.




Distortion is practically absent with most telephoto lenses. That is also the case here. The Nikon 85 mm 1.8G is great to use for reproduction or architectural photography, where it sometimes adds something, as far as distortion is concerned.




The Nikon 85 mm f/1.8 comes with a sun cap. Even so, this lens is so good that even without the sun cap you will never, or almost never, have trouble from flare. Even when during our practice test we shot directly into the sun, we had no trouble with it and we saw no ghosts in our shots.




The Nikon 85mm f/1.8 delivers starting at full aperture a beautifully sharp image. Even so, the sharpness increases to f/4, where the maximum sharpness is reached. Thereafter, diffraction causes the sharpness to fall off again so that at f/11 you see a lower sharpness than at f/1.8. And really, there’s no noticeable difference.


Chromatic aberration


The Nikon 85 mm f/1.8 includes nine elements in nine groups. In the documentation from Nikon, I didn’t find any elements of special glass types that were applied to prevent color flaws. Nonetheless, lateral chromatic aberration (green and purple edges at sharp contrast transitions in the corners of the image) is well controlled.


Bokeh Nikon 85 mm f/1.8G

The 7 rounded aperture lamellae, the longer focal distance and the high brightness of the Nikon 85 mm f/1.8 also deliver on a camera with a DX sensor a beautiful background blur. At smaller apertures, the bokeh is nicely round. The more you stop down, the more the bokeh takes on the shape of the aperture. And the bokeh also gets a more clearly visible outer edge.


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Nikon85mmsampleimageNikon AF-S 85 mm f/1.8 @ 100 ISO, f/2.8 and 0.6 sec

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Conclusion Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G test with Nikon D7100

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ECWYSIWYG score: This table shows the performance of this lens if you save the file in the camera as a jpg, with all available in-camera lens corrections applied. This score gives you for this lens/test camera combination: “What you see is what you get”. 

testcamera: Nikon D7100

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ECPure RAW score: This table shows the performance of this lens if the file is saved in the camera as a RAW file. This score approaches the intrinsic quality of the combination of lens and test camera. If you make use of Photoshop, Lightroom or SilkyPix for the conversion of RAW files, then the RAW scores are the same as the jpg scores.

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See our list of tested lenses or the lenses with a Nikon mount tested by us to compare the performance of this lens to other lenses.


  • Very high image quality on all fronts: very high resolution, amazingly low lateral chromatic aberration, no distortion
  • Beautiful bokeh at full aperture
  • Well built
  • Attractively priced


  • No built-in image stabilization
  • AF at f/1.8 is less accurate

The Nikon 85 mm f/1.8G delivers sublime image quality at an affordable price.

I previously did a lot of photography with an SLR camera with a 135 mm f/2.8. It gave me very sharp images, while I could simultaneously nicely isolate the subject from the background. A Nikon 85 mm f/1.8G on a camera with a DX sensor delivers the same field of view, the same fantastic sharpness, and just as nice a bokeh as a 135 mm f/2.8 on a camera with an FX sensor. The Nikon AF-S 85 mm is thus perfect for every quality-conscious owner of a Nikon D5300, D3300 or D7100 in terms of brightness, image quality and price/quality ratio. It’s naturally another question whether you like the focal length. Not everyone is charmed by a short telephoto lens with a fixed focal distance. If you want the same image quality, but a somewhat shorter focal distance, consider the Nikon 50 mm f/1.8G. That’s less expensive as well.


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